Archive - Jan 2008
Any hope John Hopkins may have had of getting his 2008 season off to a better start than in 2007 were dashed today, after Hopper crashed in damp conditions during the second day of testing in Phillip Island. The American Kawasaki rider suffered a torn abductor muscle in his groin, after a highside at turn one flicked him off the bike.
The only consolation for Hopper is that the injury, while painful, is less serious than the broken hand he suffered testing at Qatar prior to the 2007 season. Hopkins was scheduled to fly back to California as soon as possible, to receive treatment from the renowned sports physiologist Dr Ting.
Hopkins will hope to return to testing at the official IRTA test at Jerez in mid-February.
In a boost to the profile of MotoGP in Australia, Casey Stoner won the Young Australian of the Year award for 2008. Stoner's award was announced at a special ceremony in Canberra, Australia, part of celebrations for Australia Day, the country's national holiday. The awards were presented by Australia's newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Stoner edged out Australian teenager Daniel Adams, who organized Australia's first Make Poverty History day.
The operation on Dani Pedrosa's hand has left him in a bit of a quandary. With an injury which would keep ordinary mortals away from motorcycles for at least six week, Pedrosa has been told by his doctors that he could be back riding within 3 weeks, which would be just in time for the official IRTA test at Jerez from February 14th. That, however, is a risk: If his hand isn't healed properly, then riding early could aggravate the injury, endangering the start of his season. On the other hand, if he waits until the test at Qatar the end of February, that would leave him just those two days of testing to develop and prepare his 2008 Honda RC212V before the start of the season.
So far, the Spanish triple world champion seems to be erring on the side of caution. At a press conference in Barcelona, Pedrosa told journalists "for now, my priority is to work on recovering (from the injury) quickly." He was reticent his plans for returning to testing: "we'll see over the next few days whether we can attend particular tests or not".
In the summer of 2007, John Hopkins made two separate, but unrelated announcements: That he was leaving Red Bull, and would be sponsored by Monster Energy; and that he was leaving Suzuki, and would be joining Kawasaki. Almost immediately the second announcement was made, MotoGP followers put two and two together, and speculation was rife that Monster Energy (whose corporate colors are black and green) would be sponsoring the Kawasaki MotoGP racing team (whose corporate colors are green, with some black) for the 2008 season. Of course, Kawasaki refused to comment on such speculation.
Until now. Today, Kawasaki announced that MotoGP followers had correctly surmised that two and two equals four, and that the Kawasaki MotoGP team will be sponsored by Monster Energy for the '08 and '09 seasons. The deal is for two years, with an option for becoming a title sponsor in 2009.
A major non motorcycle-related sponsor entering the championship must raise hopes for other teams. So far, Gresini Honda is still without a title sponsor, and Team KR has been forced to withdraw from the MotoGP series while waiting to finalize a major deal with a Las Vegas casino and resort company. MotoGP desperately needs new cash, and this is a start.
The resumption of MotoGP testing brings welcome relief to fans starved of news over the long winter break, but it usually causes more questions than answers. For although the fans finally have some times to pore over and speculate about, the published times are usually just for a single lap for each rider, with no indication of whether the times were set on race or qualifying tires, with a full or nearly empty tank, with the bike in race trim or not. Genuinely useful times, which include long sequences of laps are hard to come by, and like all rare commodities, highly prized.
Fortunately for MotoGP fans, sites like the Italian stalwart GPOne.com manage on occasion to lay their hands on more detailed timesheets. As they have today: GPOne has a comparison between long runs by Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Rossi's 21 lap run was done with the new Yamaha M1 engine with pneumatic valves, running 2'02 second laps consistently, with a couple inside the 2'01 bracket, which is well inside the existing race lap record. But as impressive as those times were, they pale in comparison to Stoner's long run: the Australian managed to run 7 of 8 laps in the 2'01s on his Ducati GP8, with just a single slower lap in between.
Dani Pedrosa's ill fortune at Sepang continues. His fiery crash at the end of testing on Tuesday resulted in a fractured hand, and is on his way home. As expected, the Repsol Honda rider will miss the remainder of the test in Malaysia, but the situation is looking bleak, as Pedrosa is also highly likely to miss out on the Phillip Island test next week, with the next test at Sepang in the first week of February also looking doubtful.
Sepang has been cruel to Pedrosa over the years, as he injured himself badly there in a practice crash during his rookie season. The excruciating pain from the gaping hole in his leg did not prevent the tough little Spaniard from finishing on the podium, however.
Testing resumed after the long winter layoff for the official test ban, and the so eagerly-awaited first day of testing proved to be a tumultuous and drama-ridden affair. From the start, it was clear that the riders were having a tough first day back at work, with several crashes throughout the day.
Valentino Rossi was the first faller, crashing out around 10 am, having only just gotten started. Rossi later put his fall down to a lack of concentration, a remarkable confession from the Doctor, who appeared at the M1 launch just days previously with a new hair cut and an air of gritty determination. Rossi was lucky to escape comparatively uninjured, as the crash was a fairly nasty highside, as the images from SportsMalaysia.net show:
The seemingly interminable drought of the MotoGP winter test ban is about to come to an end, and masses of die-hard MotoGP fans will draw a collective sigh of relief. For testing resumes at Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday, with all of the teams slated to attend the 3 day test.
The test will also be the first chance all of the teams get to focus more closely on their 2008 machinery. All of the new bikes should be there, and the teams will be working on getting the bikes up to speed as quickly as possible.
One interesting detail was revealed by the Italian site MotoGrandPrix.it this week: According to Masahiko Nakajima and Lin Jarvis of Yamaha, barring insurmountable reliability problems, the M1 will use pneumatic valves at the first race at Qatar. Nakajima and Jarvis told MotoGrandPrix.it that work on the pneumatic valve engine is complete, and it will be tested alongside the engine using conventional steel springs at Sepang. This will mean that the entire field has abandoned conventional spring valve actuation, with Honda having switched to use pneumatic valves after the end of 2007.
In the middle of the 2007 season's summer break, MotoGPMatters.com caught up with Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, and talked to him about racing, the tire and engine rules which came in in 2007, and the direction for Suzuki in 2008. With the winter test ban about to end, and the teams getting ready for the 2008 season, it seems like a good time to run the interview with Chris Vermeulen, and whet our appetites for the thrills to come. Take it away, Chris.
You share a background with Casey Stoner and Ant West in dirt track, and you're all here doing very well in MotoGP. What is it about racing dirt track as kids in Australia that makes you all so good?
I don't know, really. Growing up on the dirt gives you a lot of feel for the bike, I find. It gives us a lot of understanding of what's going on underneath us on the Grand Prix bikes, I guess.
Casey Stoner's father Colin says that Casey's such a fast starter thanks to those short dirt track races. You, on the other hand, tend to be slower off the line, but quick once you get into the groove after a lap or two. Is that a legacy of your later experience in Supersport or Superbike?
That should be lap 10 or 20, not lap 1 or 2! No it's got nothing to do with Superbike or dirt track. I guess I just wait, get into a groove, and make sure everything feels fine. I push as hard as I can from the start, but I've got to be comfortable before I can go really quick , I guess.
For many MotoGP fans, especially in countries such as the USA, where motorcycle racing is very much a minority pursuit, the thought of the sport seeing the sort of popularity it enjoys in Spain and Italy is regarded as a kind of idyll to aspire to. But they forget that the flip side of that coin is that such popularity spawns a kind of relentless hunger for news, which in turn generates a vast and entirely unreliable rumor mill, some of which may even turn out to be accurate.
In an interview on the official MotoGP.com website, Claudia Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Corse told reporters what they already knew: that Ducati is most fearful of the new Honda RC212V for the 2008 season. Domenicali made two very obvious and related points: that Honda will want revenge for their miserable performance in 2007, and that HRC have the technological prowess and means to achieve just that.